What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is based on modes of production and trading that put people and planet before financial profit. Fair Trade also connects producers and consumers through greater transparency of supply chains. By demonstrating that greater justice in world trade is possible, Fair Trade also seeks to involve citizens in rewriting the rules of trade with the needs of small producers, workers and consumers at their heart. Fair Trade is not charity but a partnership for change and development through trade.

What is the difference between Fairtrade, Fair Trade, fair trade and fairly traded?

‘Fairtrade’ refers to the mark or certification label given by the Fairtrade Foundation (in the UK) to products they can verify as adhering to their standards. The standards are overseen globally by Fairtrade International.

‘Fair Trade’ is often used in two different ways. Firstly, ‘Fair Trade’ is used to refer to the verification of the World Fair Trade Organisation and its Guarantee scheme.

‘Fair Trade’ is also used to refer to the wider Fair Trade movement to secure better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.

So, ‘Fair Trade’ can be used when referring to specific products with the WFTO verification and the wider movement in general.

‘fair trade’ is a broader term that refers to the general act of buying, selling or exchanging commodities in a way that is fair. It doesn’t necessarily imply the strict standards of Fair Trade.

‘fairly traded’ refers to products that have been fairly traded but currently do not have verification by either FLO or WFTO.

What does the Scottish Fair Trade Forum support?

The Scottish Fair Trade Forum, as a network organisation, is not solely committed to promoting any particular Fair Trade verification scheme. We support the Fairtrade Mark certification, we are also a network member of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and we support fairly traded initiatives that adhere to the approach set out in ‘A Charter of Fair Trade Principles’.

Some products have the Fairtrade Mark to indicate that they have been produced to these standards.

Other businesses and products are part of the WFTO guarantee system to show that they adhere to these principles.

In other cases, we become aware that products are being produced adhering to the principles but have not applied for various reasons for verification. The key feature for all these products and businesses is that they follow the principles.

What are the standards for the Fairtrade Mark?

The familiar blue and green Fairtrade Mark is the most common certification scheme for Fair Trade products in the UK. Its standards are set by Fairtrade International (of which the Fairtrade Foundation is the UK representative), and all products bearing this mark will have been judged to have met these standards. Traditionally, the Fairtrade mark has been awarded to commodity products, although that is now starting to change with the introduction of Fairtrade-certified footballs.

The Fairtrade standards ensure socially responsible production and trade, and in addition seek to support the development of disadvantaged and marginalised small-scale farmers and plantation workers. Fairtrade standards relate to three areas of sustainable development: social development, economic development and environmental development.

In summary the key objectives of the standards are to:

  • ensure a guaranteed Fairtrade minimum price which is agreed with producers
  • provide an additional Fairtrade premium which can be invested in projects that enhance social, economic and environmental development
  • enable pre-financing for producers who require it
  • emphasise the idea of partnership between trade partners
  • facilitate mutually beneficial long-term trading relationships
  • set clear minimum and progressive criteria to ensure that the conditions for the production and trade of a product are socially and economically fair and environmentally responsible.

See here for more information on Fairtrade standards.

What are the World Fair Trade Organization’s standards?

The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) also runs a verification scheme. This is awarded to organisations (rather than individual products) which demonstrate 100% adherence to their ten Fair Trade principles in all their activities:

  • creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers
  • transparency and accountability
  • fair trading practices
  • payment of a fair price
  • ensuring no child labour and forced labour
  • commitment to non discrimination, gender equity and women’s economic empowerment and freedom of association
  • ensuring good working conditions
  • providing capacity building
  • promoting Fair Trade
  • respect for the environment

In 2013, the WFTO also launched its first Fair Trade product label.

More information on labels can be found here.